July 15, 2024

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Boston Using Prison Labor to Shovel Out

Image © CBS Boston / WBZ


Paid pennies an hour to shovel in freezing conditions, prisoners have been a part of Boston’s Snow Removal Response since at lest 2011. 

The 16+ inches of snow that fell on the Boston area over the past weekend brought the total snowfall for the last month up over seven feet, continuing to cripple the MBTA and public infrastructure. As part of the work crews pulled together to shovel out from the recent storm “about 50 inmates from the Department of Correction are also helping to shovel, the MBTA said” [ More via CBS].

From ThinkProgress:

A mixture of unionized city workers and state prison inmates worked to clear commuter rail tracks of snow on Monday in hopes of having trains running again when businesses reopen Tuesday after the President’s Day holiday. With air temperatures down in the single digits and wind chill values running below zero fahrenheit, the crews shoveled snow off of tracks and above-ground platforms at the Braintree station outside the city, a key outlying stop on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) red line …

The state has deployed inmates to shovel before, according to city Inspectional Services Department commissioner William Christopher, who said that two four-prisoner crews were sent out around the cityearlier this month to clear paths to fire hydrants and shovel snow off handicapped access infrastructure. “The amount of snow that we got is record-setting and we’ve pulled out every resource from every possible way to clean this situation up,” Christopher said at the time. Further west, inmates in a community service program at a minimum-security prison have helped clear snow from other storms this winter, and as far back as 2011.

The MBTA’s turn to inmate labor likely means that the system’s contracts prohibit paying non-union members to do the work. The city is reportedly offering $30 an hour for union workers to shovel tracks, and supplementing those paid work crews with prisoners.

The median wage for state prisoners across all trades is 20 cents per hour… [More via ThinkProgress]

According to JP News “A team of prisoners was shoveling Hyde Square on Tuesday.”

Image by Gretchen Van Ness

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  1. Picture This

    I fail to see why this is a “Boston Wrong”? The 13th Amendment states: Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. ….

    Help me understand why prisoners should not be used for labor? If they don’t like it, they are free to not commit crimes thus avoiding being a prisoner…

  2. paul lyman

    This is total fucking bullshit man, The injustice system jails people for crimes that are so insignificant , and turns around and makes a profit off human labor… I love Mass, but really man, this is a fucking human atrocity in in my eyes. time to stop this police state!!!!

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